Saturday, 18 October 2014

Warren Ellis: Black & White Comics

(from Orbital Operations Newsletter, September 2014)
...But, often, in the last week, I've just been laying there unable to do much of anything but think, and not even able to do that well because I was just wanting food that wasn't going to shred my throat or make me cough a lung up into someone's lap. fucked up enough that it took me most of the week to read a long interview with Marina Abramovic which had several unusually pleasing moments in it, including the point where she states quite plainly that the artist is the servant of their society, which I enjoyed immensely, and anyway the actual point of this was that in the middle of this fugue I seriously found myself wondering about doing a black-and-white comics series, a long and largely structureless one, just for the sheer hell of it. Even digitally. I mean, you'd never get an artist for it, because what I laid there imagining was basically all my worst tendencies (from a commercial perspective) as a writer rolled into one endless shapeless thing.

Or, put another way; Dave Sim was what, forty-eight years old when he completed his massive shapeless nonsense distillation of all his fascinations and neuroses and philosophies? I'm forty-six and laying there in a medicated trance thinking about starting mine.

And, yes, when I invoke Dave Sim, there's a shitload of extra baggage there that I am well aware of. All respect to Sim the technical maestro -- and CEREBUS should be something you study if you have an inch of interest in the medium, there was a point where his level of control on the page was supernatural -- but Sim the creative intellect is one of those awful object lessons about staying in comics full-time for too long. I know all about that. That said: consider the notion of a six-thousand-page container for pretty much everything that guy was interested in for twenty-seven years. It may be a monument to insanity, but it is, regardless, a fucking monument. You can't take it away from him that he did that thing.

And it'd have to be black-and-white. Black-and-white is part of the grammar of large rambling graphic novels, in my head - FROM HELL, CEREBUS, THE LAST KINGDOM, add your own here. Also, it's the grammar of literary graphic novels -- MAUS, PERSEPOLIS, etc etc. So I could fool myself, as all pulp writers who finally give up on plot and just drop their bowels in public do, that I am being all literary and clever. Black-and-white always had the mad things in. Now that I reflect on it, I think most of my fondest memories of comics come from b/w books: 2000AD, WARRIOR, LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, ESCAPE, the undergrounds, the independents, the early Anglophone graphic novels...

Crazy. You all better hope that I heal up soon.

Warren Ellis is the author of many critically acclaimed comics, including Transmetropolitan and The Authority.


David Birdsong said...

I was going to comment on this, but my finger was bitten by a spider and may be infected. I find that far more important. Get well soon Warren, whomever you are.

Anonymous said...

Dave Sim continues to be the envy of the industry it seems....however one might end up wording it:)

Tony Dunlop said...

My finger got bitten by a spider 5 years ago and I ended up with a nasty staph infection that went septic and spent 2 days in the hospital hooked up to an IV of powerful antibiotics. Be careful out there.

By the way, I've never heard of this guy. (And he's never heard of me, either, as an old Dave Sim tagline went.)

Travis Pelkie said...

Egad, I thought spider bites led to wonderful but angst-inducing spider powers ;) Hope you're ok, David B., and hope you healed up well, Tony.

But if you guys haven't heard of Warren Ellis, he's quite good. He's held in high regard up towards the Alan Moore level of talent. He's been working in comics over 20 years now and done plenty of good to great stuff. I'd recommend Nextwave from Marvel, Planetary from DC, and Fell from Image, for 3 starter series. I haven't read Transmetropolitan, but that and Stormwatch/The Authority are where he hit big. He's written a couple of decent novels, Crooked Little Vein and Gun Machine, and he's still doing comics, including Trees and Supreme:Blue Rose from Image.

David Birdsong said...

Thanks for the well wishes. Finger is healing up and now I know who Warren Ellis is. Interesting fellow, but I ain't too fond of hearing CEREBUS described as a spilling of bowels, but ya can't dazzle everyone.